Fish borne diseases

Q&A about diseases and their cure

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Pam Chin
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Fish borne diseases

Post by Pam Chin » Tue Dec 02, 2003 1:14 pm

Dear Pam,

I don't know if this is truly up your alley or not, but I figured it would be good for a laugh if nothing else.....Every so often my parents come up with comments about my life that are incredibly bizarre. SCUBA diving is equated with sky diving or other dangerous activities, living in Silicon Valley means that I'll be poisoned by chip making toxic residues, and living too close to San Francisco will eventually make me vote only for Democrats. More to the point, they tell me that keeping fish exposes me to untold parasites and pathogens. This is especially galling because my father designs and builds sewage treatment plants for a living!! Because I keep African cichlids, I have even had my parents imply that the fish may put me at risk for AIDS.....But seriously, folks, are there any known water borne diseases (a le' schistosomiasis, which requires snails) that are known to be borne by cichlids?? What quarantine precautions are generally taken on wild fish? What African invertebrates are common in African Fish shipments? Mom wants to know....

Mike

Pam Chin
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Post by Pam Chin » Tue Dec 02, 2003 1:15 pm

Dear Mike,

I think this is an excellent question, we hobbyists do have our hands in the water all the time. I have always been more concerned with what I may have on my hands, not what my hands might be picking up. It is not wise to stick your hands in your tanks after you have just put on hand lotion or after you have scrubbed out the sink with cleanser. I thought a good person to talk to is PCCA member, Denise Petty, DVM. Denise is a corresponding member, that I met on FISHNET and later in person at last years (1994) ACA convention, in San Antonio. So I dropped her your message and asked her to comment for us. Here is what she has to say:

Dear Pam,

Parasites are very rarely transmitted to humans from aquarium fish, unless you plan on eating your cichlids. However, it is possible for humans, especially those who are immuno-compromised, to be infected with some of the bacteria that are responsible for disease in fish. Bacteria may enter through breaks in the skin when handling fish or cleaning aquaria. While the incidence of bacterial infections is low, many of these bacteria are ubiquitous and caution should be exercised when abrasions, lacerations, or puncture wounds are present on the hands or arms. Pam, would you like me to go into detail about some of the bacterial diseases? By the way, I've spoken (well, typed with one) with two people who have had localized mycobacterial infections. In fact, I met one of them at ACA'94 (I think she was from CA). Denise Petty, DVM

Dear Denise,

This is great!! Yes, please expand as much as you want to!! The club and I appreciate your comments and support!

Cichlid Power! Pam

Dear Pam,

Here is more: Signs of mycobacterial infections in fish (also known as fish tuberculosis) include emaciation, loss of appetite and sometimes skeletal deformities. Many internal organs may be affected, and ultimately affected fish will die, sometimes months to years after being infected. The infection is thought to be spread to other fish when they munch on their dearly departed companion.

Mycobacteria are resistant to many of the standard antibiotics, so prompt removal of dead fish and humane euthanasia of affected fish are the best ways to limit the spread of disease. Mycobacterial infections in humans usually result in a localized infection (granuloma), commonly on the hand or fingers, when mycobacteria enter a cut or scrape. Some granulomas may resolve without treatment. But a visit to a physician is wise, as occasionally the infection may extend to deeper tissues. Other bacteria reported to cause localized infection via wound contamination include Vibrio spp. (more common in marine fish, but can occur in freshwater fish), Aeromonas spp. (very common in tropical freshwater fish worldwide), Klebsiella spp., Edwardsiella tarda, and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. Though transmission of bacterial disease from fish to humans is infrequent, some of these infections have a high mortality rate.

Providing a healthy environment for our fish reduces the incidence of bacterial disease. All new fish should be quarantined for at least three weeks, and handled carefully during that time. One should avoid being punctured by fins when netting fish. If any wounds are present on the hands or arms, protective gloves should be worn when cleaning aquaria or handling fish. Anyone interested in more information should read the chapter on zoonoticdisease in Stoskopf's Fish Medicine. Pam, I hope this doesn't sound too horrifying. Heck, I commonly have smallscrapes or punctures on my hands and I don't think anything of putting my hands in my tanks. The fact is, infection is possible, so I'll err on the side of caution instead of telling people that it can't happen. What do you think? Denise Petty, DVM

Dear Denise,

Thanks so much for expanding on the possibilities and ways to prevent an infection. I can only say that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Get those dead fish out of the tanks promptly, and using rubber gloves if you have cuts and scrapes is sound advice.
Cichlid Power!
Pam

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